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Clemons Named Drapeau Center for Undergraduate Research 2023 Mentor of the Year

Mon, 05/20/2024 - 10:32am | By: David Tisdale

Mentor of the Year

A University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Polymer Science and Engineering faculty member described by one of his students as having a “profound influence” on her and fellow undergraduates through his instruction and guidance in the classroom and laboratory has been named the 2023 Drapeau Center for Undergraduate Research (DCUR) Mentor of the Year.

Dr. Tristan Clemons, who joined the school’s faculty in the fall 2021 semester, earned the award following the recommendation of the DCUR Steering Committee. Dr. Clemons’ expertise includes polymer chemistry, biomaterials, supramolecular assembly; he heads the school’s Clemons Research Lab, which is focused on polymer chemistry, supramolecular assembly, and biomaterials for therapeutic applications.

Before coming to USM, Dr. Clemons was a research associate at Northwestern University and a National Health and Medical Research Council fellow at the University of Western Australia, investigating nanomaterials designed for the treatment of burn injuries.

“I’m very humbled to receive this award and thank the Drapeau Center for all it does in supporting undergraduate research here at Southern Miss,” Dr. Clemons said. “In the Clemons Lab research group this is a team effort, and I’m thankful for all my graduate students and their excellent mentorship of the undergraduates over the past few years.

“And I thank my students – all of them. I have a fantastic team here in the Clemons Lab built on supporting each other, and a true enthusiasm for the innovative research we’re working on together. They [students] create a truly inspiring environment to be a part of, for which I’m grateful.”

Mentor of the Year

USM Assistant Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering Dr. Tristan Clemons, center, and recent USM graduate Zack Wallace, left, are shown here working together on a research project. Dr. Clemons has been named the USM Drapeau Center for Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for 2023 (USM photo).  

In 2023 Dr. Clemons mentored two Eagle SPUR grant recipients and a DCUR Summer Research Fellow in his lab; this year, he will have two more Eagle SPUR grant recipients studying in the lab.

“The most impactful part of the DCUR funds supporting undergraduates is seeing how it helps grow the student in confidence,” Dr. Clemons explained. “The funds help them engage in research in the labs, which brings their course work to life in solving real world problems, but importantly supports their professional development through presenting their work at conferences and communicating their science.

“My DCUR-supported students all presented at the recent American Chemical Society Spring conference in New Orleans (March 2024), and it was a very proud moment for me to see them presenting our work on the international stage – a moment enabled by the DCUR support.”

Jessica Shresta, a sophomore in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering from Kathmandu, Nepal said Dr. Clemons “consistently encourages us to never settle for the easy answer” and that his “dynamic research approach, which continuously evolves with new questions and perspectives, challenges us to persistently learn and adapt.”

Dr. Clemons noted the value of quality mentorship, citing his own journey during which he says he’s been “very fortunate to have had great mentors that have helped me get to this point, and all I try and do now is to be that for my own students.”

“I don’t take this mentorship responsibility lightly,” he further noted. “As professors we have this opportunity to positively impact a student’s trajectory during their brief time with us, and I really get a thrill out of helping those around me achieve and realize their potential. That’s really what it’s all about.”